The term ‘sense of place’ has become a bit of a buzzword in recent years, but what does it actually mean? And why does it matter?
If you don’t know where you are, you don’t know who you are. (1) – This quote by the US American novelist Wendell Berry clearly suggests that places are more than just locations on a map. It is the human attachment and stories linked to places that make them special and unique. Sense of place refers to, so to speak, the narrative of a place.
“A sense of place is a unique collection of qualities and characteristics ‘visual, cultural, social, and environmental’ that provide meaning to a location. Sense of place is what makes one city or town different from another, but sense of place is also what makes our physical surroundings worth caring about.” (2)
A sense of place makes people connect with their surroundings, and makes them establish knowledge of and appreciation for the location. This, in turn, nurtures the development of empathy for the place and a feeling of belonging, and leads to greater stewardship. (3)
Sense of place is not a static concept. It evolves and changes over time, such as the social values of the communities who interact with the respective places do. Due to the ever-changing nature of the concept of sense of place, it is important to consider past, present and future social values when creating new places. Moreover, in order to support the development of a sense of place, it is crucial to gain a true understanding of the communities that are to use the area, and to consider their ideas and needs when designing new places. (4)
By providing opportunities to share ideas and take ownership of the project, as well as by involving the community right from the start, Greening the Pipeline aims at creating a solid base for the development of a sense of place and a parkland that generates a feeling of belonging and stewardship.